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Neighbors in Galveston County restoring reefs through oyster gardening

GALVESTON, Texas — Oyster reefs are one of the most threatened marine habitats in the world. In Galveston Bay alone, more than 50 percent of oyster reefs have been damaged or destroyed in recent years, in part due to major hurricanes like Ike and Harvey.

But neighbors who live by the bay are hoping to change things. The Galveston Bay Foundation’s Volunteer Oyster Gardening program relies on Bay homeowners to create and maintain oyster gardens using recycled shells.

“The Galveston Bay Foundation works with seafood restaurants that stretch from Galveston to Clear Lake and into Houston’s inner loop to collect their shells on a weekly basis,” said Haille Leija, Director of Habitat Restoration at the Galveston Bay Foundation.

Last year alone, the foundation set an all-time record for oyster shell collection, recycling 181 tons of shells from local restaurants.

“The reason we want these shells is actually great habitat or substrate, some might say, for baby oysters,” Leija said.

Edwina Peyton has been gardening oysters out of her bayside home in San Leon, Texas, for more than a decade.

“It’s really low-tech,” Peyton said. “You put clean shells in a bag in the water. You just want to keep it clean so the oyster sticks to that shell. You rinse them once a week and by the end of the summer you’ve probably grown a lot of baby oysters.”

Oysters also play a big role in keeping the bay clean. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water each day, removing pollutants and chemicals.

“It’s such a great program because it allows these people to see a mini-ecosystem right there on their pier,” Leija said. “These oyster gardens become a home not only for oysters, but for fish, shrimp, crabs, all kinds of species that these people and their children and grandchildren can see.”

“It’s easy, it’s rewarding and it teaches all the kids what’s in the bay,” Peyton said.

For more information on the Galveston Bay Foundations Oyster Gardening and Oyster Shell Recycling programs, click here.

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Neighbors in Galveston County restoring reefs through oyster gardening Source link Neighbors in Galveston County restoring reefs through oyster gardening

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